HCMC braces for super surge

As next month’s Super Bowl looms over U.S. Bank Stadium, Hennepin County Medical Center officials a few blocks away plan for a surge in potential patients.

This isn’t the first time the biggest event in the sports world has taken place steps from the hospital, but officials say the 10-day length and sheer size of the Super Bowl festivities presents a unique challenge for HCMC.

Mark Lappe, an emergency manager at HCMC, said planning for the hundreds of thousands of Super Bowl attendees started more than 18 months ago. HCMC is working with other hospitals, clinics, government agencies, police and fire departments to prepare for a potential rise in patients during the 10 days leading up to the Super Bowl when football fans descend upon downtown for daily concerts and attractions.

“It’s really been a multi-agency coordination on this and really regional in nature,” he said.

The event presents a unique set of circumstances for the hospital’s staff, who will have to grapple with road closures and extra traffic. Lappe said they’re recommending staff take transit and carpool to avoid putting more cars than necessary on the road. At the same time, he said the hospital will be staffed higher than normal during the Super Bowl weekend.

The event will temporarily restrict the airspace surrounding U.S. Bank Stadium, which will mean helicopters moving patients around will need permission to come in. Lappe said the process should be “pretty seamless,” and they don’t expect any delays.

With international attention put on the city, VIPs will be in town and it’s possible they may need treatment at HCMC. Lappe said protecting the privacy of celebrity guests does raise concerns, but it’s something they do for everyone who comes through the hospital’s doors.

“We do that for all of our patients,” he said.


Conditions pose frostbite danger

Any time when lots of people and alcohol mix with freezing temperatures, frostbite is a possibility.

“[With] all three of those scenarios frostbite can happen. You put them all together that’s when you get a little bit nervous,” said Dr. Jon Gayken, a physician in HCMC’s Burn Center.

As the coldest major cities in the country, the Twin Cities is one of the most active areas in the world in terms of frostbite. While other metro areas are colder, Gayken said the area’s high population and severe cold snaps are a recipe for frostbite, a daily occurrence during the wintertime at HCMC.

The main factors that contribute to frostbite are low temperatures and strong winds, which can push the wind chill well below freezing during Minnesota’s coldest months. At that time, it may take exposed skin as little as 10–20 minutes to develop frostbite.

“The lower the temperature and the higher the wind speed, the greater the risk,” he said.

Frostbite most commonly affects extremities like fingers and toes, Gayken said, though the tips of ears and the nose are also typical.

Many people know the signs of frostbite — numbness, burning pain and, in the most severe cases, loss of sensation — but Gayken said it’s common for intoxicated or impaired individuals not to recognize the warnings.

Average temperatures for Feb. 4 are between 9 and 26 degrees, a range that Gayken said makes frostbite a possibility.

Gayken recommends following basic rules like limiting the amount of exposed skin and time spent outside. Pack dry socks, gloves or boots in a bag or in a car in case you get wet. The best way to avoid frostbite, he said, is to plan ahead and avoid exposure to the elements.

If you believe you’ve experienced frostbite, Gayken says to seek immediate medical attention. Early treatment can limit development of a wound.

Hennepin County has opened another unit for frostbite, which has nearly doubled its capacity to treat patients for frostbite. Gayken said they’re expanding their outpatient clinic for wound care and treatment.

“[We’re] generally surging all of our resources to meet the needs of our community,” he said.